Bardem on Chigurh: 'Pointless'

This topic contains 12 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  vike savoth 11 months, 1 week ago.

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  • 28 Oct 2013 at 1:01 pm #4384


    I like this post, and the addressing of the question: it seems very important, and I hadn’t thought about it so much.

    Maybe in addressing this, one can productively start with a quote I attribute to Nietsczhe, (though I honestly can’t recall for absolute certain it was he–I recall I read in in a list of quotes from great philosophers, but not certain past that):

    “A man’s awareness reaches its Zenith when it becomes clear to him that his life is meaningless.”

    “Inside-out,” this can, by choice, be read:

    “A man’s awareness reaches its Zenith when he sees that all he had regarded as essential is meaningless, and he then comes to terms with, as best he can, what has actual relevance.”

    I don’t know why Bardem would say what he said. Give him a break: he’s an actor.

    Studying, a bit, the Master Criminals in McCarthy’s work, insofar as I have, This is what hits me:

    Prior to reaching the age in life where one typically seeks full understanding of and commits to the Social Contract, with its benefits and obligations, these men either were or felt they had been, forever, disenfranchised of those of the said such benefits by experience, by experience of bitter sort which kills soul and allows body to survive, if barely. Still feelingly aware that essential aspects of their humanity remained vital in them, but feeling, too, themselves so distinct from most people, in so many ways, as to feel “a stranger in a strange land,” should they commit to typical social contract, they considered their options. A downside of rejecting the social contract stubbornly, destructively, and long enough is an agonizing, separating, humiliating, consciousness-altering exile from society–what if one suffers this prior to being given a choice? I think that this is Chigur, and the buyer in The Counselor. These are keenly intelligent, thoroughly capable men.

    If Nihilism enjoys a completely distinct philosophical sophistication, in it likely in its capacity to sling-shot proponents to the frontier of the Actually Meaningful.

    Chigur is divorced from structure one would think essential to the pursuit of meaning, and, as wisely and thought-provokingly posted above, he seems to wish some return to such structure, such as may be feasibly possible for him.

    The buyer in The Counselor never had to sacrifice much in the way of benefits derived form social structure. He leads a somewhat double life, but it doesn’t bother him. It looks like he is reconciled to pretty much everything, and ok with all his choices. His name is on the Social Contract, and his hands drip with blood. I feel there is reason to think the human mind capable of even accommodating even far, far, far greater “contradiction.”

    28 Oct 2013 at 2:40 pm #4387

    Richard L.

    Chigurh, of course, was based on the real-life Jamiel Chagra, link, whom McCarthy may have actually encountered through his friend, evangelist and professional gambler, Frank Morton. It was Morton who introduced him to professional gambler, Betty Carey. See this link

    The real life Jamiel Chagra backed Betty Carey in her high stakes poker quest against Amarillo Slim. There is much we don’t know about this stage of Cormac’s life. A memoir might enlighten us.

    The Chigurh of the novel is a child whose sense of empathy and compassion is retarded. He lacks the necessary development in his frontal lobes, but he is smart in his animalistic way, cunning, and still evolving. There is a section where the narrator says he “catches up to himself.” He is the hard man at the opposite pole from Bell, the soft man. Yeats.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by  Richard L..
    12 Feb 2017 at 9:15 pm #8847

    vike savoth

    I don’t pretend to have the acumen and articulate, nimble dexterity of the folks on this thread – what a great read. But I wanted to throw in a few thoughts. I just signed aboard here and it’s my first headlong dive into Charlie McCarthy and his Land of Darkness (I’m sure he’d beat me with a brick with a pointy nail it in it for calling him that, so I apologize in advance). But following up on these 2012 Chigurh thread thoughts, I’m thinking: I get the sense that Bardem’s approaching the character from his actor’s perspective which forcibly limits his perspective. I think to get the effect he did, he had to numb himself. I sense he shut down much of his sensory system to play the part. He’a a patient, inevitable one-man nihilism executioner. There’s a bottomless nothingness to him, hence the placid expression, the guttural hypnotic growl, the glacial menace, and the slow as Death itself shambling whether in socks or unusually skinned boots. All these are little details that paint a broader portrait than the novel does – but the novel’s portrait is, in a way, to me at least, far deeper with far more reasoning behind his appalling manners. A ghost or a future of doom on the move, the actor is playing a man with a whole lot of nothing in his soul. But the book has Chigurh speaking much more, expressing his thoughts much more and that’s where we as fans or mavens or appreciating souls of the book and the film part company with him as just a walking forehead opener. He’s more well-rounded than Bergman’s Death. There’s this sense of strict adherence to a certain code and a certain way of doing business. He respects himself and I believe, strange as this looks to read, I believe he respects his prey. He does not fear them, he has no concern he shall not vanquish them – but he knows full well the executioner’s dance takes two – or more. Now the point where it becomes simply sport to him rather this intriguing dance of death is a secret he keeps to himself. Is it “fun for” him to hunt or a mission? It seems it’s almost reflexive, instinctual how he thrusts and parries and outsmarts each of his victims: he seems to have an uncanny certainty in determining how to outsmart a passing motorist, how to mentally murder Wells before blowing his face clean off, and so on. Clearly, unless we harbor murderous tendencies we can explain away with conversations from coins to conversations ourselves, we all agree he’s insane. While not perhaps a “lunatic”, insane nonetheless. It’s a controlled insanity. But it is his unwavering commitment to his job, his mission, and his role in the world as he sees it that has a great deal of meaning to him and so to the story and the lessons we draw from this dark and chilling well – it’s well defined. There are borders, there are codes, there are laws and he operates, in his blackened mind, fluidly and consistently within them. I do not believe he ever kills anyone in the book or the film that in his mind, in his carnal calculus, did not deserve to die or, at the very least, whose time it was not to die. In each instance of sad inevitability and monstrous oblivious administrating, he was appropriately locked and loaded at the moment of his administering eternity. These victims, as the coins, as he himself, were tumbling tumbleweeds and to mix my Coen metaphors, Chigurh abides. I personally found it comforting to know that it was not him that killed Llewlyn Moss. They were mighty adversaries and in the book the fact that Moss was a Vietnam sniper looms large to me. I personally always appreciate any honorific of the souls on the Wall, including my 20 year old cousin. As I’m thinking about this seminar coming up in September, Chigurh is certainly a topic worth rummaging around perhaps – what is evil? who is evil? what is right and wrong? How could we ever vet a guy like this at the border. Pretty normal looking. Jocularity aside, there’s so much more to him. He’s not a raving homicidal maniac but more of a man working within the system with a great deal of fluidity. More like Luca Brasi although – different from him as well because not once, not ever, did I notice Chigurh get angry.

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